Jochen Gerz

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Jochen Gerz (born April 4, 1940 in Berlin ) is a German conceptual artist who spent most of his life in France (1966 to 2007). His work revolves around the relationship between art and life, history and memory, around concepts such as culture, society, public space, participation and public authorship. After a literary start, Gerz works in various artistic disciplines and with different media. Regardless of whether it is text, photography , video , artist book , installation , performance or his author projects and processes in public space, the focus of the work is the search for an art form as a contribution to the res publica and democracy. Jochen Gerz has lived in Ireland (Co. Kerry) since 2007 .


Jochen Gerz came from literature to art as an autodidact: He began to write and translate in the early 1960s ( Ezra Pound , Richard Aldington ) and was at times foreign correspondent for a German press agency in London (1961–62). He studied German , English and Sinology in Cologne, and later archeology and prehistory in Basel (1962–66). After moving to Paris, he joined the visual poetry movement.

In Paris, as an activist and witness to May '68, he used the new space between literary and artistic conventions. Since the late 1960s he has been critical of the media, commercial as well as artistic, and increasingly understood the viewer, the public, and society as part of the creative process. His photos / texts, performances, installations and works in public space question the social function of art and the claims of Western culture after Auschwitz . As a result, doubts about art reappear and permeates Gerz's work to this day.

With his contribution to the 37th Venice Biennale in 1976, where he played in the German pavilion together with Joseph Beuys and Reiner Ruthenbeck , and with his contribution to documenta 6 and documenta 8 in Kassel (1977/1987), Jochen Gerz achieved international recognition in the art world which led to numerous retrospectives of his work in Europe and North America (Hamburger Kunsthalle, Center Pompidou Paris, Corner House Manchester, Vancouver Art Gallery, Newport Habour Art Museum, etc.). From the mid-1980s, however, it returned more and more to the public domain and in the 1990s increasingly left the art market and the museum behind.

Since 1986 Gerz has created numerous (anti) monuments that thematize and subvert the tradition of commemoration and turn the public into the creative vortex of his work. His author projects and participatory processes in public space since the turn of the millennium have brought about a radical transformation of the relationship between art and viewer.


The activity of writing and the question: "What does writing mean?" runs like a red thread through the plant right from the start. It is shaped by doubts about language, plays with its representative function and breaks with its discursive linearity. Gerz wrote many of his manuscripts by hand in mirror writing, which makes them difficult to read and makes the word recognizable as an object, as a medium that separates itself from reality and behind which the expression and time of life disappear.

In 1968 Gerz founded the alternative publishing house “Agentzia” together with Jean-François Bory, in which early works by artists ( Maurizio Nannucci , AR Penck , Franco Vaccari, Manfred Mohr and others) as well as authors of “visual poetry” were published. At the time, he described his own work as “progression texts: from paper-away texts, to squares-streets-houses-people-to-text and back-to-paper-back texts. They nest in the book like parasites. They do not constitute themselves on paper, they take place anywhere, anytime and in public. You have countless anonymous author readers. ”This formulation shows the way to the text as part of the visual arts and art as a critical, participatory contribution to public space and society.

Although his texts are created in the context and as part of the artistic work, they are also highly valued on their own. "The most extensive and richest of these books," writes Petra Kipphoff about the book ›The Centaur's Difficulty Getting Off the Horse‹, which was created parallel to the installation at the Venice Biennale in 1976, "is a reflection and an accountability report on the one hand, and a collection of aphorisms on the other, which is in the The branchiness of the filigree formulations in contemporary literature is unparalleled. "

Early work in public space

In 1968 Jochen Gerz began to open up public space for his work. He confronts them with the reality of everyday life. In an interview in 1972, he did not describe himself as a writer or artist, but as "someone who publishes himself".

Beware of Art Corrupted (1968)

In 1968 Gerz affixed a small sticker with the words “Attention art is corrupted” to Michelangelo's “ David ” in Florence and thus “laid the foundation for an artistic creation that consciously tries to evade categories and dares to intervene and assaults that are severe Oppose generic order. “Attention Art Corrupts” is work that is aimed both at art and at that which points beyond art; a single sentence, a single gesture make it clear that the conditions for art after '68 are no longer derived from art alone. "

The Book of Gestures (1969)

On the occasion of the “Intermedia” exhibition (1969), cards were thrown from the roofs of downtown Heidelberg, drawing the attention of passers-by and random readers in the street to their own lives: “If you found the above number on a blue card, then it is It's the part of a book I've been writing for a long time that I've been missing. I would therefore like to ask you to spend this afternoon in Heidelberg as if nothing had happened and not to let this communication influence your behavior. Only in this way can I succeed in writing the book to the end that I would like to dedicate to you, my rediscovered present. "

Exhibition of 8 people living on rue Mouffetard in Paris by their names on the walls of their own street (1972)

Numerous works from the late 1960s and 1970s deal with the quality of the “public” in relation to the “private” as the supposed place of authenticity. In collaboration with students from the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, eight random names of residents of the Rue Mouffetard in Paris were posted on their own street in 1972. The controversial reactions, from the appreciation to the removal of the poster with one's own name, probably also resulted from the fact that the “temple of the non-public space” was exhibited with the personal name.

Exhibition by Jochen Gerz next to his photographic reproduction (1972)

In 1972 Gerz stood for two hours next to a photograph of himself in a downtown street in Basel . According to Andreas Vowinckel, this performance “revealed more than other works the perceptual behavior of the observer and random passers-by on the street. He pays more attention and trust to the reproduced image on the poster than to the person Jochen Gerz, who is actually standing next to his image. This behavior confirms the suggestion, the search for the riddle, the longing for a secret that reality denies. ”Reproduction supersedes the original. "Turn your back on the media," Gerz noted, "you can't do it."

Picture and text

Since the mid-1960s, Jochen Gerz has been concerned with the dialectic between image and text. While the two “dissimilar siblings” were still in “playful togetherness” in the context of visual poetry, since 1969 they have been subject to an almost systematic questioning in “Photo / Texts”. Gerz works in the space between the media and creates a poetic no man's land between fiction and reality that the viewer or reader can only fill themselves (with their own life). In the "mixed media photography" works of the 1980s and 1990s, however, new appropriations and connections between text and image are constantly being seen, in which today the technological developments and possibilities of digital media - the convergence up to the fusion of image and text - are anticipated are.

Photo / text

Gerz does not look for selected or rare motifs with the camera; his photos appear casual and everyday. "Already in terms of the use of the means," says Herbert Molderings , "it becomes clear that it cannot be a matter of adding new, yet different, aesthetically balanced and symbolically condensed photos to the existing reservoir of reproductions of the world, but that here the activity of Photography itself and its place in everyday cultural behavior (the ›entanglement in his own relationship to the apparatus‹) give food for thought. " The inconspicuous, as if by chance, photographs stand next to texts that "behave" in a strange contextless manner in undefined proximity to one another, without the nature of this behavior becoming visible despite the proximity. The texts as a legend do not describe, supplement or explain the images, and the photos do not illustrate the text.

“The time of description” (1974) gathers the early photos / texts in book form, in four volumes, published by Klaus Ramm , each with an afterword by Helmut Heißenbüttel . It contains black and white photographs, dated handwritten and typewritten texts and the authenticity stamp: “o lived o not lived” with the option of ticking. The ambiguity of the title, in which “description” can be understood as “description” on the one hand, and as an act of writing on the other, indicates the ambiguity of the attempt to fix the living experience in image and text. The photos / texts make it clear that the subject of memory, time, past and history is not only present as an object of "remembrance work" such as the later anti-monuments, but on many levels in Jochen Gerz's work.

The 88-part work “The French Wall” (1968–75) mixes and tests font / text / photo / image / found objects / cover color in a constantly changing constellation. It was created in Prement / Aisne , a rural region on the edge of the Champagne , to which Gerz had in the meantime withdrawn from Paris in order to found the “Society for the Practical Study of Daily Life”. With the simplest means a comprehensive pictorial and reflective compendium was created and a detailed “ evidence collection ” undertaken. The ironic allusion of the title to the “French hanging” of baroque picture galleries makes the work appear as a large notice board with comments, glosses and observations on art, culture, politics and the everyday world in the French environment.

In addition, from September 28 to November 20, 1977, a poster illustrated by Gerz from "Jochen Gerz - Exit materials for the Dachau project" was presented in the Munich Municipal Gallery in the Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau.

Mixed media photography

"Le Grand Amour (Fictions)" is a two-part cycle from 1981/82, in which the images of "great love" ("Fiction" is the subtitle of the work) are juxtaposed with grainy portraits of the dying mother. With the choice of very personal topics, a clear relationship between photo and text seems to be recognizable for the first time, but despite the intimate appearance they remain external to each other, the relationship remains in limbo, unresolved.

As a result, he created numerous mixed media photography works with montages and transitions in which image and text overlap, penetrate and enter into complex image relationships. As image and information elements, the media approach (and merge) so far that they seem to lose every significant property and can only be identified as part of the viewer's memory. Here, too, it is about the cultural reshaping of experiences and memories. How far this alienation can go is made clear by “It Was Easy # 3” (1988), one of ten wall works showing two bands of clouds, one mirrored and the negative of the other. Vertical smoke rising from clouds. Two voice bands read: "It was easy to make laws for people" and "It was easy to make soap out of bones"


The performative aspect of the work - from the writing, the first participatory works in public space in the sixties, through the photos / texts, mixed media photography or the installations to the author's projects since the nineties - is present everywhere in the work by Jochen Gerz. This is especially true for performances with or without an audience, whether in the exhibition space of galleries and museums or in the public outdoor space.

Call to Exhaustion (1972)

On the construction site of the later Charles de Gaulle airport , Jochen Gerz called in 1972 from a distance of 60 meters towards the camera and microphone until his voice failed. The performance without an audience is documented by an 18-minute video that shows the process in real time. It shows a duel between the artist (the "original") and the mechanism of media reproduction, in which the machine ultimately wins the upper hand.

Prometheus (1975)

The media-critical aspect is also in the foreground in “Prometheus” (1975), one of the “Greek plays” which (themselves) ironically deal with the European culture of representation. With the help of a mirror, the artist directed sunlight onto the lens of a video camera that was filming him. The overexposure gradually erased the captured image. "The medium dazzles with light", writes Gerz about this performance, or also: "P. is the man who refuses to be depicted. (...) Because there is only one real image, and that is us self".

The Trans-Siberian Prospectus (1977)

Jochen Gerz's contribution to documenta 6 also consisted of a performance without an audience: a train ride on the Trans-Siberian Express . During the 16-day journey from Moscow to Khabarovsk and back, the window was covered so that nothing in the compartment was visible from the outside. For each day he had a slate (60 × 60 cm) with him to put his feet on. Records made during the trip have been destroyed. At the 1977 documenta in Kassel, a room with 16 chairs was on display, each with a slate with footprints in front of them. "Lived time cannot be shown," says the catalog. Whether the journey actually took place or whether the concept led directly to the installation in the exhibition remains open to the viewer. This work can be seen as an early critique of conceptual art.

Purple Cross for Absent Now (1979)

In 1979, two video cameras, monitors and a rubber cord were installed in the Münchner Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus , which divided the room into two halves. The visual axis of the two monitors and that of the rope formed a cross shape. One end of the taut rope was anchored in the wall, the other crossed the opposite wall and was attached to Gerz's neck in the next room, invisible to the audience. If someone touched the rope, the action had a (painful) effect on the artist's neck. The effect could be seen on the monitors. The performance took place as an “act of becoming aware, in which the audience understands watching, their own involvement in what is happening and their own responsibility.” In several cases, the performance was interrupted by those present or the organizers cutting the rope. The work aims at the "anesthetic effect of the media, the predominance of the world of representation caused by it, which achieves an autonomy that saps reality."


In the 1970s and 1980s, numerous installations were created in European, as well as North American and Australian museums and public galleries, addressing the museum context, including the series of ten “Greek pieces” (1975–78). They play around Greek mythology in many different ways , while the series of the following nine "Kulchur Pieces" (after Ezra Pounds "On Kulchur") satirized the humanistic tradition and the "multinational" Western culture ( colonialism ) from 1978 to 1984 .

EXIT - materials for the Dachau project (1972/74)

The installation “EXIT - Materials for the Dachau Project” (1972/74) consists of two rows of tables and chairs that are illuminated by weak light bulbs. You can hear the breathing of a runner, the clatter of electric typewriters and, at intervals, the sound of the shutter release of a photographic camera. On the tables lies a copy of the same folder with 50 photographs that were taken during a visit to the former Dachau concentration camp and document the language of the museum. The compendium of information boards, signposts and prohibition signs defines an emotional and mental course that visitors to the memorial must walk through, and which makes the continuity of language between the concentration camp and the museum tangible as something inevitable.

"When the museum keyword› Exit-Exit ‹, which is used for convenience, hangs on the doors today," says Gottfried Knapp , "which once led directly and inevitably to death, then the thoughtless analogy of the referral systems, distorted by discrepancies, takes on a macabre dimension. " Controversial entries in the visitor book of the Badischer Kunstverein in Karlsruhe and the Lenbachhaus in Munich testify to the intensity of the reaction and the uncertainty of the viewer through EXIT in the seventies. Barbara Distel , the director of the memorial at the time, accused EXIT of scandalizing the term museum and asking visitors to preserve the dignity of the site. Gerz himself apostrophized the work as a museum criticism and, above all, as a criticism of language, he is concerned with the inescapable continuity of language in two contradicting systems, dictatorship and democracy.

Life (1974)

In 1974 Jochen Gerz wrote the word “live” in chalk for seven hours on the floor of an exhibition room (9 × 7 m) at the Kunstmuseum Bochum . A plaque was installed on the front wall of the room. Whoever wanted to decipher the text had to cross the room and step on the writing on the floor, which was gradually blurred and erased by the steps of the visitors. To see it as a whole, the audience had to destroy the work. The board read: “At this point she was overcome with the same perplexity. Nothing happened. She could have been mistaken for a spectator, had it not been for something like an internal tremor: the anticipated echo. "

The Centaur's Difficulty Getting Off Horses (1976)

One of the most important contributions by Jochen Gerz was shown at the 37th Venice Biennale in 1976 , to which Klaus Gallwitz had invited the then 36-year-old alongside Joseph Beuys and Reiner Ruthenbeck . The nine meter high and seven meter long centaur , a wooden structure colored with photographic masking paint, was divided by a wall between two rooms of the German pavilion. The larger part was provided with a flap at the bottom, through which the artist could get into the room inside the sculpture, in which he stayed for several days. The original manuscript of the same name for the work in mirror writing was shown on six desks.

As in other of his "Greek pieces", Gerz makes Greek mythology the starting point for his installations and performances that counter cultural consumerism. He does not promote the ancient legend as a humanistic educational asset, but refers to the apparatus of culture as something that separates real life. "Jochen Gerz's centaur is", says Karlheinz Nowald , "the cultured person who has difficulties getting away from his civilization". The installation is now in the Wiesbaden Museum .

News to News (Ashes to Ashes) (1995)

When entering a darkened room, the gaze falls on a black “picture” that seems to float in front of the wall surrounded by a vibrating light. There are 16 monitors that are compactly installed as a rectangular block at a distance of 30 centimeters - with the image side to the wall. A crackling fire noise can be heard, which involuntarily suggests fire and threat. Anyone who dares to look behind the tableau will notice that the monitors show 16 log fires. The banality of the local idyll is disappointing. It is in contradiction to the spectacle of fascination and horror that the concealment of reality creates. On the wall is a text in mirror writing: "Les derniers mots, illuminati."

THE WALK - no retrospective (2018)

In 2018 Jochen Gerz was invited to a retrospective in the Lehmbruck Museum Duisburg. For over 15 years he had turned his back on the museum, which he had often criticized. That was the reason why this invitation became a commission for a new work in public space. Instead of a retrospective - not a single work was shown in the original - the artist's e_Catalogue Raisonné was created, which makes all of Gerz's works accessible online anytime, anywhere. THE WALK, a 100 meter long walkway led along the museum's glass facade at varying heights. On the was a monumental text ("Contemporaneities") that connects the life and work of the artist with eight decades of contemporary history. A look back, a look from the outside at the effects of art in the city, and a utopian look towards the future of civil society.

Author projects and collaborations

Jochen Gerz became known to a broader public beyond the art world through works in public space that are created thanks to the contribution of participants and are only made possible by them. Since 1986 he has realized numerous author projects, including several unusual (disappearing and invisible) memorials in an urban context, which are also known as "Counter-Monument" or Anti-Monument ( James E. Young ). This memory work rejects its substitute function. They give the order back to the public, wear themselves out in their own temporality and disappear in order to reappear in the apparent paradox of an “invisible memorial”. This work with and in public carries Joseph Beuys' idea of ​​"social sculpture". In 1995 Gerz called his first internet project in which the participants could answer a question about art and life “The Plural Sculpture”.

Memorial against Fascism, Hamburg-Harburg (1986)

The “Memorial against Fascism” (Hamburg-Harburg, 1986–93, together with Esther Shalev-Gerz ) was a social experiment with an uncertain outcome: “Either the Denk-Mal 'works', i. H. it is made superfluous by the initiative of the population, or it remains as a memorial to the non-functioning, (as) a meneteel . ”Of the 12-meter-high lead-jacketed column installed in the Hamburg district of Harburg since 1993, only a 1 m² large lead base plate, the cover of the column can be seen. The memorial is sunk in the ground. A photo sequence documents the process of his disappearance. The invitation to participate read: “We invite the citizens of Harburg and visitors to the city to add their names to our own. It should oblige us to be and remain vigilant. The more signatures the twelve-meter-high lead rod bears, the more of it is embedded in the ground. Until it is completely sunk after an indefinite period of time and the site of the Harburg memorial against fascism is empty. Because nothing can stand up against injustice in our place in the long term. "

Active participation and appropriation, which took very different forms in each individual case, has caused the visible object to disappear over the years. It was covered with around 70,000 names, entries and graffiti (x loves y or “Foreigners out!”) And their strikeouts. Swastikas and gunshot marks were also found in the lead sheath. The artist himself commented: “Because the places of remembrance are people, not monuments.” Elsewhere he noted: “As a reflection of society, the monument is problematic in a double sense because it not only reminds society of the past, but additionally - and this is the most disturbing part - of your own reaction to this past. "

2146 stones - memorial against racism, Saarbrücken (1993)

From April 1990 onwards, all 66 Jewish communities in Germany (and the former GDR) were contacted and invited to provide the names of the cemeteries that were buried in until 1933 as a contribution to a memorial. Together with a group of eight students from the Saar College of Fine Arts, Gerz removed paving stones from the avenue of the Saarbrücken Schlossplatz that led to the seat of the regional parliament and the former Nazi Gauleitung in nightly actions for over a year . The removed stones were replaced with placebos. The students engraved the names of the Jewish cemeteries communicated by the communities into the stones and put them back in the palace square where they had been removed. However, the stones were placed with the writing facing down so that the memorial remained invisible. The number of cemeteries mentioned by the Jewish communities in Germany grew to 2146 by autumn 1992. She gave the memorial the name: "2146 stones - memorial against racism Saarbrücken".

Like the memorial in Hamburg-Harburg, the Saarbrücker memorial is not visible, but has to be thought and realized in your own perspective. Unlike this, however, it was not created as a commissioned work, but as an originally secret and illegal initiative that was only later legalized by the Saarland parliament. The Saarbrücken Palace Square is now called the Square of the Invisible Memorial .

Bremen survey - SINE SOMNO NIHIL, Bremen (1995)

The "Bremen Survey" is a sculpture that was created between 1990 and 1995 in collaboration with 232 Bremen citizens (out of 50,000 respondents). To participate, you had to answer three questions:

  1. On which topic should the thesis comment?
  2. Do you think that your ideas can be realized with the help of art?
  3. Would you like to work on the artwork?

The participants decided in six public seminars that the sculpture did not have to be a material object. In its place, a text and a pane of glass were embedded in the floor of the Bürgermeister-Schmidt-Brücke over the Weser, which can be read if you venture out onto the glass surface that protrudes laterally as a refuge over the bridge. On the base plate is written: “The Bremen survey is a sculpture that arises from the images of those who imagine it. All who do that are their authors. It is dedicated to them and to all who stop here and see something that doesn't exist. "

The Living Monument, Biron (1996)

The commission from the French Ministry of Culture was unusual. A German artist was supposed to replace the memorial for the fallen of the First and Second World Wars in the village of Biron in the Dordogne department , where the SS massacre of 1944 is still vividly remembered. Jochen Gerz had the obelisk and the plaques with the names of the fallen and asked each resident a question that remained unpublished. He had the 127 anonymous answers burned on enamel signs and attached to the new obelisk. Three examples:

“Life makes sense. Killing or giving your life away is the same thing, it makes no sense today or yesterday. Life is everything: joy, happiness, duty. You mustn't put it in danger. But I understand that people who experienced the war see it with different eyes. Still, I don't think I'll change my mind. It doesn't bother me at all to know that others here know what I'm thinking. "

“In some philosophies it does not matter whether one speaks of life or death. In this context, one could give up this life, since it continues in a different form in each case. That's not to say that what we live now doesn't matter. Every moment counts. There is only the present, which contains both the past and the future. The victim must have no place in life, it is stupid to sacrifice yourself for someone or something. "

“The war is not nice. He's ruining the poor people. Peace doesn't last long; There have always been wars, that can come back at any time: the front, death, restrictions. I don't know what can be done for peace. Everyone would have to agree. When you're twenty you want to live, and when you go to the front you go to the slaughter. The worst part is that it brings in something. Doing business with other people's lives, how pathetic that is! "

Even after the inauguration, the number of signs on the "living monument" grew. New and young residents answer the "secret question" and continue the villagers' dialogue with their story.

WHY - Implementation draft: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin (1997)

The concept with which Jochen Gerz was among the last four participants in the competition for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin in 1997 did not attempt to portray the Shoah or to give the memory of it a valid form. In the "Room of Answers", visitors to the memorial should take a position and answer the question: "Why did it happen?" The answers would be written into the concrete floor of the site next to the Brandenburg Gate by a robot day and night. The memorial was to remain a construction site for 60-80 years until the most extensive text in history - the answers from visitors to the monument - filled the immense area. The answers should also reflect the years of intense debate that preceded the realization of the monument in the German public. The neon word “Why” in the 39 languages ​​of persecuted Jews in Europe was supposed to illuminate the square 16 meters above the ground. The work was not realized.

The Berkeley Oracle - Questions Without Answers (1997)

“The Berkeley Oracle” pays homage to the student movement that spread from Berkeley to many European centers in 1968. Today, many of the values ​​represented at the time have long since become the status quo. The spirit of change, on the other hand, has evaporated. "In remembrance of the times of questioning and change, you are invited to ask the Berkeley Oracle your urgent, unforgettable, new or never-asked questions." This call was made in 1997 on the Internet, on a joint website of the Berkeley Art Museum and of the ZKM in Karlsruhe. Jochen Gerz had already dealt with the cultural technology of the computer in the early 1970s ("These words are my flesh & my blood" 1971), and in the 1990s he increasingly made use of the possibilities of digital communication (e.g. "The Plural Sculpture ”, 1995;“ The Anthology of Art ”, 2001). With "The Berkeley Oracle" Gerz alludes to the oracle of Delphi. Is the World Wide Web the New Oracle?

Over the course of two years, over 700 questions were received, from which Gerz selected around 40 and had them installed on small boards in different areas of the Berkeley Art Museum, in the exhibition room, in the bookstore, in stairwells, on the toilet and the like. a. to transform them into places and moments of reflection. “Since the Berkeley Oracle neither promises nor gives answers, it leaves the realm of politics and moves into the realm of philosophy and art. Gerz invites the participants into a room for questioning things and then simply leaves them there. This is a space that Pyrron von Ellis called "epoché", a state of spiritual suspension in which one is aware that a final knowledge of things is not possible. "

Les mots de Paris (2000)

On the occasion of the new millennium, Jochen Gerz realized "The Words of Paris" for the French Ministry of Culture, a work on the often romanticized and taboo existence of the homeless. While they used to be the subject of films, poems and chansons as clochards , today they are banned as "SDF" (sans domicile fixe) not only from popular culture, but also from the tourist center of the French capital. Gerz hired 12 homeless people as part of the work of art for 6 months and rehearsed for 3 months, together with theater people and art students, the exhibition of the homeless on the most visited square in Paris, the forecourt of the Notre-Dame Cathedral . In the unusual exhibition, Parisian passers-by and tourists from all over the world faced those who have become invisible. The homeless spoke without complex about their life “behind the mirror” and often found a surprised audience that hesitantly entered into a dialogue about poverty, social exclusion, but also about the role of art.

Future Monument, Coventry (2004)

The "Monument to the Future" is the response of the residents of Coventry to an often traumatic past. It's about enemies who become friends. 6000 citizens made a contribution, with a public and at the same time personal statement, the answer to the question: "Who are yesterday's enemies?" The city remembered its destruction in the Second World War by the German air raids on Coventry , at the same time it discovered how many Residents today are migrants and what it means to have been a colony (England itself is in third place). The eight most frequently mentioned former enemies are recorded on eight glass plates in the floor in front of the glass obelisk:
our German friends,
our Russian friends,
our English friends,
our French friends,
our Japanese friends,
our Spanish friends,
our Turkish friends,
our Irish friends

Platz der Grundrechte, Karlsruhe (2005)

Fundamental Rights Square at night

The starting point for the “Platz der Grundrechte” was the desire of the City of Karlsruhe to address and make visible its own relationship to law as the location of numerous national, regional and municipal courts, especially the Federal Constitutional Court (BVG). In the first part of the work, Jochen Gerz asked BVG President Jutta Limbach and other lawyers, but also prominent citizens of the city, questions about the contribution of law to society. He then turned his questions to citizens who had come into conflict with the law and been convicted. They answered the artist's question about the injustice. This resulted in 24 statements twice. One answer each from the two groups surveyed was enameled on the front and back of a street sign. A total of 24 signs with 48 statements about right and wrong were implemented, each mounted on a metal post. On October 2, 2005, the new Square of Fundamental Rights was inaugurated between the market square and Schlossplatz in downtown Karlsruhe. A second, decentralized version of the square is scattered across the city at 24 locations selected by citizens.

2-3 streets. An exhibition in cities of the Ruhr area (2008-11)

As part of the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010 , Jochen Gerz invited creative people from Germany, Europe and overseas to live rent-free in the Ruhr area for a year. The cities of Duisburg, Dortmund and Mülheim an der Ruhr provided 58 refurbished apartments for a total of 78 participants in three “normal streets with no special features”. The streets were in quarters with vacancy, migration and unemployment. The aim of the one-year exhibition 2-3 Streets was to change the streets concerned and to publish a book, which was written by 887 authors, the old and new residents, but also the visitors to the work in the streets together in 16 languages ​​on 3000 pages. The motto of the exhibition was: "We write ... and in the end my street will no longer be the same." The work ended after one year on December 31, 2010, but half of the participants in “2-3 Streets” on Dortmund's Borsigplatz decided to stay together and have since continued to work in the street under the name “Borsig11” on their own initiative.

Place of the European Promise, Bochum (2004–15)

Place of the European Promise, Bochum 2015

Also as part of the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010 , the "Place of European Promise" has been created since 2004 on behalf of the City of Bochum. It is located in the immediate vicinity of the town hall in the center of the city. The participants were invited to make a personal promise to themselves and to Europe that will remain unpublished. Instead of promises, names from all over Europe fill the square in front of the Christ Church , of which only the tower with the surprising mosaic of the 28 “enemy states of Germany” from 1931 (England, France, USA, Poland, Russia, China, ...) survived the war. The "Place of the European Promise" was able to hold a total of 14,726 names until it was opened to the public on December 11, 2015, eleven years after the work began.


“Artists”, said Georg Jappe as early as 1977, “like to think of Jochen Gerz as a writer, they miss materiality and form; Writers like to think of Jochen Gerz as an artist, they miss content, categories, style. ”What is striking is that Jochen Gerz occasionally causes confusion and irritation even among those who know his work. So Jappe ends his review of Gerz's "The Second Book - The Time of Description" with the words: "Reading through this I realize that I probably did not succeed in bringing Jochen Gerz closer. Which would not correspond to him either." The works evade and create a space that only the recipient can fill himself. “In Jochen Gerz's works, like nowhere else in a complex of works of contemporary art, epistemological doubts about the sole meaningful power of image and text are reflected. His installations make it clear how much pictures first and foremost receive their fields of meaning through texts and sentences, and at the same time constantly change and relativize them. "

The work in public space is often controversial. The participatory projects in particular are often unpredictable social “negotiations” in which not only the art world but also society as a whole is reflected, as in the case of the Harburg “Memorial against Fascism”. The public is part of the work of art. The reception often takes place both inside and outside the art context and gives art civic or political relevance. Above all, with the author's projects in public space, the observer is questioned in his passive role. The emancipation of the viewer, the transgression of the reception, the participation become a prerequisite, because the processes of creation, which often take years, are dependent on public authorship. "In a democratic society there can be no space for the mere spectator," says Jochen Gerz. And: "The division of the world into artists and viewers endangers democracy."

Honourings and prices

  • 1978: Prize of the Glockengießergasse, Cologne
  • 1980: Videonale Prize, Bonn
  • 1990: Roland Prize for Art in Public Space (for the Harburg Memorial Against Fascism )
  • 1995: German Critics' Prize (visual arts)
  • 1996: Ordre National du Mérite , Paris
  • 1996: Peter Weiss Prize of the City of Bochum
  • 1998: Grand Prix National des Arts Plastiques, Paris
  • 1999: Prize from the Helmut Kraft Foundation, Stuttgart
  • 1999: Artistic Contribution Award, Montréal
  • 2002: Prix Evens, Paris
  • 2005: Given the occasion, Hanover
  • 2011: Special award from the Montag Foundation for Art and Society, Factor Art, Bonn

Texts by Jochen Gerz (selection)

  • Jochen Gerz: Footing. Paris / Giessen 1968.
  • Jochen Gerz: Advertisement section. Working on / with paper. Luchterhand Verlag, Neuwied 1971.
  • Jochen Gerz: The description of the paper. Darmstadt / Neuwied 1973.
  • Jochen Gerz: The time of description. Klaus Ramm , Lichtenberg 1974.
  • Jochen Gerz and Francis Levy (eds.): EXIT / Das Dachau-Projekt , Roter Stern Verlag, Frankfurt 1978.
  • Jochen Gerz: The measurement of the paper. in AQ 13 1973
  • Jochen Gerz: De l'amour: (fictions) Dudweiler AQ-Verlag 1982.
  • Jochen Gerz: Von der Kunst / De l'art Dudweiler AQ-Verlag 1985.
  • Jochen Gerz: Texts. ed. v. Erich Franz, Bielefeld 1985.
  • Jochen Gerz: Think of it, texts in work 1980–1996 , Düsseldorf 1997.
  • Jochen Gerz: Inside the door. Speeches to Students , ed. v. Hans Belting, Ostfildern 1999.

Texts about Jochen Gerz (selection)

  • Angeli Janhsen : Jochen Gerz , in: New Art as Catalyst , Reimer Verlag, Berlin 2012, pp. 82–93. ISBN 978-3-496-01459-1
  • Ulrich Raschke: disposable book . Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 13, 1971.
  • Georges Schlocker: A museum is exhibited . German General Sunday paper, Hamburg, May 25, 1975.
  • Gottfried Knapp : Embarrassing, agonizing ambiguity . Süddeutsche Zeitung, Munich, October 12, 1977.
  • Georg Jappe: The invisibility of the real . Die Zeit, Hamburg, August 5, 1977.
  • Jürgen Hohmeyer: If it wasn't written at all . Cat.JG, Kestner Society, Hanover 1978.
  • Herbert Molderings: “Photo / Texts by Jochen Gerz”, in: Jochen Gerz. Photos / texts 1975–1978 , exhibition cat. Kestner Society Hanover, 1978
  • Petra Kipphoff: Don't trust a picture . Die Zeit, Hamburg, September 15, 1978.
  • Amine Haase: There is a gap between life and art . Kölner Stadtanzeiger, 9./10. February 1980.
  • Rudolf Krämer-Badoni: The artist as Lorelei . Die Welt, Hamburg, February 5, 1980.
  • Interview with Kirsten Martins. "Performance - Another Dimension", Kat. Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin 1983. ISBN 3-88725-056-7
  • Karlheinz Nowald: Greek Pieces, Kulchor Pieces . Kat. Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen; Heidelberg Art Association 1984.
  • Herbert Molderings: Life is not a performance. Performance with Jochen Gerz . In: Modernity and Tradition. Festschrift for Max Imdahl on his 60th birthday , ed. by Gottfried Boehm, Karlheinz Stierle, Gundolf Winter, Munich 1985, pp. 197-207. ISBN 3770523180
  • Interview with Jean Francois Chevrier. Galeries Magazine , Paris June / July 1989, no p.
  • Detlef Bluemler: Carrying on against quitting. In: artist. Critical Lexicon of Contemporary Art , Edition 6, Munich 1989.
  • Doris von Drateln: Floating when in doubt . Die Zeit (Hamburg), No. 45, November 4, 1990.
  • Günter Metken: The art of disappearing . Merkur, German Journal for European Thinking (Stuttgart), No. 534, June 1994.
  • Rosi Huhn: The problem of disposal in art and culture as a passage to positive barbarism / Le Problème du traitement des résidus dans l'art et dans la culture, en tant que passage vers une 'Barbarie Positive': Passages [D '] après / Passages. After Walter Benjamin . Publishing house Herman Schmidt, Mainz 1992.
  • Robert Fleck: In a world full of pictures, art is invisible . Art (Hamburg), No. 1-2, 1995.
  • Harald Fricke: The time of battle order is over . Die Tageszeitung (Berlin), July 17, 1996.
  • Eleonora Louis, Mechtild Widrich: The serenity of the traitor. On Jochen Gerz's photo / text work. In: Jochen Gerz. Think about it, Verlag Richter Düsseldorf, 1997.
  • Theo Rommerskirchen: Jochen Gerz . In: viva signature si! Remagen-Rolandseck 2005. ISBN 3-926943-85-8
  • Hermann Pfütze : The order - or how are art supplies created? In: Jochen Gerz: "Platz der Grundrechte Karlsruhe", Verlag für moderne Kunst, Nuremberg 2006, pp. 106–121, ISBN 3-938821-30-2
  • Cornelia Tomberger: The Counter Monument: Avant-garde Art, History Politics and Gender in the West German Culture of Remembrance , transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2007, ISBN 978-3-89942-774-5
  • AB Meadows: Jochen Gerz: Creative Stimulator of Participatory Art , in: Art in Society, Issue # 10
  • James E. Young : The Texture of Memory. Holocaust Memorials and Meaning . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993, pp. 27-37
  • James E. Young : After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture . Translation of Ekkehard Knörer . Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2002 ISBN 3-930908-70-0 , pp. 142–177
  • Werner Frenz (Ed.): Jochen Gerz - Working with the Public 63 Years Later . Vienna: Verlag für Moderne Kunst, 2016 ISBN 978-3-903004-95-5
  • Mechtild Widrich: Performative Monuments. The Rematerialization of Public Art . Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7190-9591-7 .

Films about Jochen Gerz (selection)

  • The left-handed film , Robert Quitta, Paris 1981
  • Vivre , Joel Bartolomeo, Center Pompidou, Paris 1994
  • Le monument Vivant de Biron , Marlene Apman, Strasbourg 1996, in: ARTE - Metropolis, July 3, 1996
  • Jochen Gerz in the Wiesbaden Museum , Wolfram Cornelissen, Mainz 1997, in: ZDF Aspects, 23 May 1997
  • Jochen Gerz. Your Art , Peter Schwerfel, Mainz 1998, in: 3sat, July 11, 1998
  • After completion - A film about "The Berlin Investigation" by Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz. Documentation, 60 min., Director: Christoph Rüter, 1998. Synopsis by Christoph Rüter Filmproduktion.
  • Les Mots de Paris , Anne Frese, Chanel Seguin, Paris 2000
  • The most beautiful pictures are the invisible ones. The artist Jochen Gerz , Benjamin Hensler, Mainz 2010, in: 3SAT, April 3, 2010
  • Jochen Gerz talks to Claire Doherty , Bristol 2015, in: Public Art (Now), Situation program,, March 9, 2015.

Exhibition catalogs / documentation (selection)

  • Jochen Gerz: photo, texts, The French Wall & pieces , Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe 1975.
  • Jochen Gerz: The Centaur's Difficulties When Getting Off Horses , Kunstraum Munich 1976.
  • Jochen Gerz: Exit / The Dachau Project , Frankfurt 1978.
  • Jochen Gerz: The Fuji-Yama-Series , Dudweiler 1981.
  • Jochen Gerz: Le grand amour , Dudweiler 1982.
  • Jochen Gerz: Greek Pieces / Kulchur Pieces , Ludwigshafen 1984.
  • Jochen Gerz: La Chasse / The Strip , Kunstraum Munich 1986.
  • Jochen Gerz: Œuvres sur paper photographique 1983–86 , Musée des Beaux-Arts de Calais 1986.
  • Jochen Gerz , exhibition catalog Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf 1988.
  • Jochen Gerz: Life after humanism , Stuttgart 1992.
  • Jochen Gerz: 2146 stones - memorial against racism , Ostfildern 1993.
  • Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz: The Harburg memorial against fascism , Ostfildern 1994.
  • Jochen Gerz: The Bremen survey: sine somno nihil , 1990–95. Ostfildern 1995.
  • Jochen Gerz: Contemporary Art , Regensburg 1996.
  • Jochen Gerz: Get out of my lies , Wiesbaden 1997.
  • Jochen Gerz: Res Publica. The public work 1968–1999 , Ostfildern 1999.
  • Jochen Gerz: Catalog raisonné Vol. I-IV, Nuremberg 1999/2011.
  • Jochen Gerz: The money, love, death, freedom , Jena 2001.
  • Jochen Gerz: The competition , Cologne 2004.
  • Jochen Gerz: The Anthology of Art , ed. v. Marion Hohlfeldt, Cologne 2004.
  • Jochen Gerz: Place of Fundamental Rights. An author project , Nuremberg 2006.
  • Jochen Gerz: Salviamo la luna , ed. v. Matteo Balduzzi, Milano 2008.
  • Jochen Gerz: 2-3 streets TEXT / 2-3 streets MAKING OF , Cologne 2011.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Jochen Gerz: Annoncenteil, works on / with paper , Neuwied / Berlin, 1971, oP
  2. Petra Kipphoff: "Trau no picture", in: Die Zeit , Hamburg, September 15, 1978, quoted. according to Detlef Bluemler: “Jochen Gerz. Carry on against quitting ”, Critical Lexicon of Contemporary Art , Edition 6, Munich, 1989, p. 7.
  3. Interview with Beatrice Parant, Kunstnachrichten Luzern, 1972, in: Jochen Gerz: Gegenwart der Kunst, Interviews (1970–1995) , Regensburg 1995, p. 14.
  4. Marion Hohlfeldt: “Attention art corrupts. Reflections on the importance of public space in the works of Jochen Gerz ”, in: Jochen Gerz, Res Publica. The public work 1968–1999 , Ostfildern 1999, p. 9.
  5. Cf. Jochen Gerz: Werkverzeichnis Vol. I , Nürnberg 1999/2011, p. 21.
  6. Jochen Gerz: Catalog of Works, Vol. I , Nuremberg 1999/2011, p. 34.
  7. Jochen Gerz, cit. According to Guido Meincke: "Jochen Gerz: Place of European Promise", in: Kunsttexte , 01/2009, note 30.
  8. Andreas Vowinckel: “The absence of presence. On the concept of production in the work of Jochen Gerz ”, in: Life After Humanism , Ostfildern 1992, p. 24.
  9. Jochen Gerz, in: The difficulty of the centaur when getting off the horse , exhibition catalog Kunstraum Munich 1976, p. 26, quoted. according to Detlef Bluemler: “Jochen Gerz. Continuing against stopping ”, Kritisches Lexikon der Gegenwartskunst , Edition 6, Munich, 1989, p. 3. - See also Jochen Gerz: Werkverzeichnis Vol. I , Nürnberg 1999/2011, p. 35.
  10. See Renate Petzinger and Volker Rattemeyer: “'I dream image and writing simultaneously'. Notes on Volume II of the catalog raisonné by Jochen Gerz ”, in: Jochen Gerz: Werkverzeichnis vol. II , Nürnberg 1999/2011.
  11. ^ Herbert Molderings: “Photo / Texts by Jochen Gerz”, in: Jochen Gerz. Photos / texts 1975–1978 , exhibition cat. Kestner Society Hannover, 1978, p. 18.
  12. See Helmut Heißenbüttel, epilogue, in: Jochen Gerz: Die Zeit der Beschreibung (Bd.I), Lichtenberg 1974, p. 92.
  13. See foreword to Jochen Gerz: The French Wall , exh. Cat. Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf in the courtyard of honor, Musée d'Art Moderne de Saint Etienne, 1997, p. 9.
  14. Irene Netta, Ursula Keltz: 75 years of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau Munich . Ed .: Helmut Friedel. Self-published by the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-88645-157-7 , p. 211 .
  15. ^ Jochen Gerz: Le Grand Amour , Dudweiler, AQ-Verlag, 1982, ISBN 3-922441-24-6
  16. See Jochen Gerz. It was easy 1988–1992 , exhibition cat. Center Saidye Bronfman, Montréal, 1993.
  17. See Jochen Gerz: Werkverzeichnis Vol. I , Nürnberg 1999/2011, p. 32.
  18. See Jochen Gerz. In Case We Meet , Center Pompidou, Paris 2002, p. 34f.
  19. Jochen Gerz, in: The difficulty of the centaur when getting off the horse , exhibition catalog Kunstraum Munich 1976, p. 25, quoted. according to Detlef Bluemler: “Jochen Gerz. Carry on against quitting ”, Critical Lexicon of Contemporary Art , Edition 6, Munich, 1989, p. 3.
  20. documenta 6 , exhibition cat. Kassel 1977, vol. 1, p. 262.
  21. Cf. Jean-Michel Bouhours: “The purple cross, a path to knowledge”, in: In Case We Meet , exhib.-cat. Center Pompidou, Paris 2002, p. 187.
  22. Cf. Jochen Gerz: Catalog of Works, Vol. I , Nuremberg 1999/2011, p. 38.
  23. ^ Gottfried Knapp: "Embarrassing, tormenting ambiguity", in: Süddeutsche Zeitung , Munich, October 12, 1977.
  24. See Jochen Gerz / Francis Lévy: EXIT. The Dachau project , Frankf. a. M., 1978.
  25. Barbara Distel, "New Forms of Memory", in: Reality, Metaphor, Symbol, Dachauer Hefte Volume 22: Confrontation with the Concentration Camp , Dachauer Hefte Verlag, Dachau 2006, pp. 3–10 ISBN 3-9808587-7-4
  26. Cf. Monika Steinhauser: “Remembrance work. On Jochen Gerz 'memorials “, in: Daidalos Architektur. Art. Kultur , No. 49, Sept. 1993, pp. 107f.
  27. See Jochen Gerz: Werkverzeichnis Vol. I , Nürnberg 1999/2011, p. 40.
  28. Cf. Detlef Bluemler: “Continuing against stopping”, in Jochen Gerz. Critical Lexicon of Contemporary Art, Edition 6, Munich 1989, p. 3.
  29. Cf. Karlheinz Nowald: “The difficulty of the centaur when getting off the horse”, in: Beuys, Gerz, Ruthenbeck. Biennale 76 in Venice. German pavilion. Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt 1976, p. 70.
  30. See Jochen Gerz: Werkverzeichnis Vol. I , Nürnberg 1999/2011, p. 108.
  31. Jochen Gerz: Contemporaneities ,
  32. James E. Young: The Texture of Memory , Yale University Press New Haven and London, 1993 pp. 23-46.
  33. Jochen Gerz, in: Achim Könneke (ed.), Jochen Gerz / Esther Shalev-Gerz: The Harburger Mahnmal gegen Faschismus / Monument against Fascism , Ostfildern, 1994, p. 13.
  34. Jochen Gerz: Speech to the jury of the memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe . November 14, 1997
  35. James E. Young: Formen des Erinnerns (The texture of Memory) , Vienna 1997, p. 68.
  36. See Jochen Gerz. 2146 stones - memorial against racism Saarbrücken , Stuttgart 1993.
  37. See Peter Friese (Ed.): Jochen Gerz. The Bremen Questionnaire, SINE SOMNO NIHIL, 1990–1995 , Ostfildern 1995.
  38. All articles online: Archived copy ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  39. See Jochen Gerz. Le Monument Vivant de Biron. La Question Secrète , Arles 1996.
  40. See Jochen Gerz: Speech to the jury of the memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe (November 14, 1997),
  41. Lawrence Rinder, "Where is my future?" in: Jochen Gerz. The Berkeley Oracle , Düsseldorf, 1999, p. 203.
  42. See on this: L'Anti-Monument. Les Mots de Paris. Jochen Gerz , Arles / Paris 2002.
  43. See Sarah Wilson: "A Stranger with Secrets: Jochen Gerz, Future Monument, Public Bench", in: Phoenix, Architecture / Art / Regeneration , London 2004. https: //s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws. com / jochengerz-admin-staging / Sarah-Wilson-JOCHEN-GERZ.pdf
  44. See Angelika Stepken (Ed.): Jochen Gerz - Platz der Grundrechte. An author project , Nuremberg 2006.
  46. Machbarschaft Borsig11 eV,
  47. Place of the European Promise website
  48. Georg Jappe: "The invisibility of the real", in: Die Zeit , Hamburg, August 5, 1977 -
  49. Richard Hoppe-Sailer, cat. On the spiritual power in art , Städtische Galerie Würzburg 1991.
  50. See Davide Brocchi: "Lived Art: Jochen Gerz", in: Webmagazin Cultura21 , July 29, 2007.
  51. see: